Biden admin's COVID vaccine, testing 'action' will help get people back to work: US labor secretary

Marty Walsh argues 'fear' of COVID contributed to lackluster labor participation

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh argued on Friday, shortly after the release of the better-than-expected October jobs report, that "fear" of  COVID-19 contributes to lackluster labor participation and the administration's vaccine and testing "action" will help get people back into the workforce. 

The report revealed that the labor force participation held at 61.6%, 1.7 percentage points below its February 2020 level. The rate has remained between 61.4% and 61.7% since June 2020.   

Walsh argued on "Varney & Co." that a "big concern" is labor participation and noted that "we have to work to get those folks back into the job market."

"We saw about 3.8 million people in the job market that are not coming back because of COVID-19, the pandemic," Walsh told host Stuart Varney. "So that’s certainly a big concern."

Walsh also outlined ways he believes workers can be lured back into the labor force. 

He pointed to the OSHA rule, an emergency temporary standard, requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate that their workers are either fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, or subject to weekly testing and mask wearing. Fully vaccinated means that the employee has received two doses of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech's shots, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.


"The action we took yesterday with the emergency temporary standard for companies with over 100 or more employees [with] either vaccination or testing, I think that’s one area that will help us with it," Walsh told Varney. 

"In some cases, it’s childcare, and strengthening childcare as well and getting more women and families back into the market," he added. "I think that’s another area." 

He went on to say that "building confidence in people’s ability to feel that we’re moving forward" is another way to get people back into the workforce.  

"When we saw the spike in the delta variant, we saw more people getting out of the workforce," Walsh noted, adding that as the number of cases decrease, "we’re seeing more people go into the job force." 

Walsh also stressed on Friday that the emergency temporary standard is not a vaccine

"Lots of companies are welcoming it. Some people have concerns about it and we’re answering any questions that businesses have here at the Department of Labor to move forward."

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HEREering any questions that businesses have here at the Department of Labor to move forward," he said. 

"It’s about getting back to where we were in our economy and that’s making sure workplaces are safe that people are going to." 

As Walsh had indicated on Friday, U.S. employers' hiring surged in October as the number of new infections caused by the COVID-19 delta variant slowed and the expiration of extended unemployment benefits moved further in the rearview mirror.  

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 531,000 workers last month as the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 4.6%, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting the addition of 450,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to slip to 4.7%. 


FOX Business’ Jonathan Garber and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.